From sites of massacres in Indonesia to massive half-pipes in Vermont, from Holland’s halls of art to the world of backup singing, the year’s shortlisted documentary features are stories that would otherwise go untold, some shedding new light on headline-grabbing turf. Each reveals a facet of how we live now: The tragedies and the triumphs, and the power of the genre to share deeper narratives that define identity and culture.
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the shortlisted films December 3, 15 feature-length documentaries advanced further in the race for a 2014 Oscar nomination. The fact that 147 docs qualified to compete at the beginning of the season demonstrates the power and scope of the genre. Among the films that made the shortlist, Twenty Feet From Stardom is Morgan Neville’s introduction to the world of backup singing through the lives of several women who have had long careers singing behind big names. The brainchild of music executive Gil Friesen, who co-produced the movie, Neville quickly learned that backup singers’ spots on the stage aren’t about lack of talent. “It becomes a film about how we measure success in our country and our society,” he says. “When I first started hearing these hard-luck stories of missed opportunities, these people weren’t broken or bitter about it,” Neville explains. “They had come to see it in a peaceful way. (It) was a way to live the life that you actually have (versus the one that you want). Most of us live in between.”
Nonfic film organization Cinema Eye has unveiled their inaugural “The Unforgettables” list, celebrating 18 of the year’s “notable and significant” docu subjects – including former Indonesian death squad leader Anwar Congo, the mass killer who’s confronted by his crimes in genocide docu The Act Of Killing. In the pic Congo claims to have murdered over 1,000 people while leading the paramilitary forces that also extorted and terrorized half a million Indonesians in the mid-1960s. But Congo and other perpetrators initially participated in the pic to glorify their atrocities, which they’ve never been held accountable for in Indonesia. Should Cinema Eye be honoring nefarious individuals like this rather than the filmmakers who bring them to light?
Over 80 filmmakers and Cinema Eye curators voted on the first class of “Unforgettables” honorees selected “to publicly acknowledge the rich collaborations that often take place between subjects and filmmakers,” according to Cinema Eye founding director AJ Schnack. It’s tricky territory. The list includes another killer: Tilikum the deadly orca who killed multiple humans while in captivity, who doesn’t sit for a single interview with the filmmakers in Blackfish.
After the record-breaking success of last week’s Veronica MarsKickstarter launch, another crew of filmmakers is striking out on the crowdfunding platform with a film linked to a beloved cult series. Filmmakers Jeff Smith and Neil Lieberman spent five years nabbing interviews with Arrested … Read More »
Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond talks with ENTV’s Brian Corsetti about his pick to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Nominees include four powerful issue-oriented films and one that tracks a long-lost musical star. The winner, Pete says, likely will be not only the year’s best documentary but … Read More »
New York, August 6, 2012 – The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnet Releasing announced today an all rights distribution deal for Citizens United Productions’ documentary OCCUPY UNMASKED, one of the last projects featuring the late conservative icon Andrew Breitbart. OCCUPY UNMASKED was written and directed by award-winning director Stephen K. Bannon and produced by David N. Bossie. Magnet is giving the film a limited theatrical release day and date with VOD in late September.
“This film is controversial, and that’s exactly the reason we want to ensure it can find its audience prior to the November elections,” said Mark Cuban, co-owner of Magnet. “I look forward to our partnership with Citizens United Productions and to getting this film out to the masses.”
Comedy director Adam McKay’s very serious documentary about the dropout epidemic in American schools gained a key ally today. Scott “Scooter” Braun, who manages such musical acts as Justin Bieber and The Wanted and produced Bieber’s 2011 concert movie Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, has signed on to produce the film along with McKay. The project has been in development since McKay hooked up with documentary filmmaker Jason Pollock last fall. Read More »
Showtime has greenlighted Suge Knight (working title), a feature-length documentary about the Death Row Records co-founder as well as the volatile and influential era in music over which he presided. The project will be directed by Training Day helmer Antoine Fuqua. Suge Knight, produced by Bradley J. Fischer and Fuqua, will be the first in a series of new documentaries produced by Showtime that will spotlight iconic and controversial figures and be done by A-list filmmakers. The documentary marks Knight’s return to the music business; through his new company Black Kapital, he will oversee the film’s soundtrack. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Well Go USA has acquired all North American rights to Hit So Hard, a documentary feature about Patty Schemel, the drummer in Courtney Love’s rock band Hole. Well Go has partnered with Variance Films, which plans to release the … Read More »
HBO has inked a deal for North American TV rights to Martin Scorsese’s documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, which will debut on the network in two parts on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6. The doc explores the … Read More »
Senna, a documentary about Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna that has become the highest-grossing British doc in UK history, is being released in the U.S. on Aug. 12 by Producers Distribution Agency (Exit Through the Gift Shop). The Working Title production in association with Midfield Films won the World Cinema … Read More »
NEW YORK, June 6, 2011 – HBO Documentary Films has acquired the domestic TV rights to THE UNION from Vinyl Films, it was announced today. Directed by Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire”), the film will debut on HBO in Jan. 2012.
Ken Burns’ latest documentary Prohibition will kick off PBS’ fall season Oct. 2-4, the pubcaster announced today in unveiling its slate of programming, which will include the first-ever PBS Arts Fall Festival that will run into December. Prohibition, which will tell … Read More »
Magnolia Pictures announced today that it has acquired all world rights to Limelight, a documentary about legendary nightclub owner Peter Gatien, from filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman of rakontur.
Los Angeles – April 20, 2011 – Red Flag Releasing announced today that it has acquired “WE WERE HERE,” produced and directed by David Weissman and editor/co-director Bill Weber. The film recently world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival followed by the Berlin International Film Festival. Red
EXCLUSIVE: Add a feature documentary to the list of new things Katie Couric is planning to explore as she is wrapping up her five-year stint as anchor of CBS Evening News. Couric is involved in a new feature documentary about … Read More »
Oscilloscope Laboratories and Showtime Networks Inc. announced today their acquisition of the widely lauded Sundance Film Festival 2011 documentary, REBIRTH, directed by Jim Whitaker.
The result of a filmmaking journey into living history, the story of REBIRTH follows the transformation of five people, over the course of 10 years, whose lives were forever altered on September 11, 2001 – and simultaneously tracks, via unprecedented multi-camera time lapse photography, the evolution of the space where the Twin Towers once rose over lower Manhattan.
Whitaker seamlessly weaves these personal stories of hope and healing and reveals a universal truth, one which shows human beings will overcome and aspire to renewal, even when the very fabric of their lives has changed.
Oscilloscope will release REBIRTH in theatres in August 2011. SHOWTIME will broadcast REBIRTH on the 10th anniversary of the events of September 11th.
The film as well as other original programming created by the REBIRTH team will eventually be housed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum located at Ground Zero. All proceeds from REBIRTH will go to the Project Rebirth Center to develop and provide new multi-media tools to aid the therapists, academics, first responders and others working with people dealing with grief.
Ken Burns and partner Lynn Novick are producing and directing a documentary film on the Vietnam War, completing a war trilogy that includes their previous PBS efforts The Civil War (1990) and the World War II doc The War (2007). Vietnam … Read More »